Big City Tales

Get Your Country On in Tennessee | April 27, 2018

As the likes of Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris, and other one-time aspiring country music artists can attest, the best place to get your country on is in Tennessee. Aside from the numerous recording studios and production companies, there’s just something about the general ambiance and physical setting that draws wanna-be cowboy/girl crooners to the state like flies to honey and fills them with sweet inspiration.

Whatever the country superstar chart-topping formula actually is, there’s no denying that it works. Some of the most memorable toe-tappin’ and foot-stompin’ melodies with both tear-jerkin’ and spirit-liftin’ lyrics have their roots in the heartland of Tennessee. Grab your hat and put your best boots on…this blog explores the state’s two main cities of Memphis and Nashville and their respective attractions, which there are plenty to sing praises about.

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Memphis

Elvis Presley may be known as the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ but he grew up in Memphis and was a fan of early country artists such as Hank Snow and Roy Acuff. He also enjoyed hillbilly music made popular by radio star Mississippi Slim, and he liked to hang out around the blues clubs located on Beale Street as a young teenager in the early 1950s. These influences would ultimately result in Presley becoming a pioneer of the rockabilly genre that fused country music with rhythm and blues. Within a few years he was well on his way to fame and fortune and, once he hit the big time, he needed a home befitting of a star, and one that would keep his fans at a safe distance.

Graceland

Presley bought Graceland Mansion in 1957, which was originally a farmstead situated outside of the city limits. As Memphis grew, suburbs surrounded Graceland and the mansion become a city landmark and pilgrimage destination for legions of The King’s fans while he was alive, but particularly after his untimely death in 1977 when the exterior fence line became a shrine. The property lay dormant for a period and was then converted into a museum and opened to the public in 1982.

The entrance to Graceland off of Elvis Presley Boulevard is a wrought-iron gate shaped like a book of sheet music, with green colored musical notes and a silhouette of Elvis. Visitors are free to walk around the grounds and visit the Meditation Garden where Elvis is buried along with his parents and grandmother.

After a recent expansion effort, there are 14 new exhibits and attractions to take in across the street from Graceland, including Presley Motors Automobile Museum where the star’s famous Pink Cadillac is on display. A new AAA Four-Diamond luxury hotel called The Guest House at Graceland was also built and features 20 Elvis-themed specialty suites.

Beale Street

In addition to Graceland, The King is also honored down on Beale Street, the home of the blues in Memphis and where Elvis honed his craft. A large bronze statue in Elvis Presley Plaza captures a young Elvis doing his rockabilly thing and wearing an outfit that he likely would have purchased from Lansky Brothers, his favorite Memphis clothing store.

Stax Museum

In addition to being a hotspot for the blues, rockabilly and rock’n’roll, Memphis celebrates soul music at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum is modeled after an old recording studio and includes artifacts such as the Soul Train dance floor, a Cadillac El Dorado owned by Isaac Hayes, and an old Mississippi Delta Church that depicts the gospel roots of soul music.

Nashville

Welcome to Music City, U.S.A. where the Grand Ole Opry House and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum delight country fans with concerts and artifacts galore.

Opryland

The Grand Ole Opry House is located a short drive from downtown Nashville and is visited every year by fans numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The Opry seats 4,000 and shows are performed every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from March through November.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is one of the world’s largest hotels and is known for its cascading waterfall and atrium containing over 8,000 plants, and its indoor river that transports guests on flatboats for a one-quarter-mile ride.

Country Music Hall of Fame

Known for unique architectural features such as its bass clef exterior shape, windows that look like piano keys, and a rotunda that mimics a grain silo, a water tower and a drum kit, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum also contains the largest collection of country artifacts in the world. The latter distinction earned the museum the nickname of “Smithsonian of country music” that the main exhibition called Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music proudly showcases. Inductees into the Hall of Fame are immortalized in bas-relief portraits cast in bronze that are mounted on plaques shaped like musical notes and are then hung in the 70-foot-high rotunda.

Music Row

Legendary musicians such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson are also celebrated in Nashville museums, and there are numerous recording labels, instrument shops and honky-tonk bars to take in. The heart of Nashville’s entertainment scene is located in the historical district called Music Row where RCA Studio B, Nashville’s oldest surviving recording studio, still stands.

 

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